SIX QUESTIONS TO ASK A GRANT AGENCY BEFORE YOU WRITE
July 31, 2017
Welcome to Alberta Business Grants!
My name is David Kincade, and I’m writing a weekly blog to help you secure government grants in Alberta.
Here is this week’s topic:
SIX QUESTIONS TO ASK A GRANT AGENCY BEFORE YOU WRITE
This grant blog addresses the following topics:
- Dramatically improving your chances of winning your grant application
- The most important step in winning a grant application takes place BEFORE you start writing
- Asking the right questions before you start grant writing
Here are six questions every grant writer should ask before writing a grant application:
Don’t Wait! Download our "Three Steps to Winning a Government Grant" PDF here - http://albertabusinessgrants.ca/
1. AM I ELIGIBLE?
Here is the easiest (and probably most common) way your grant will likely be disqualified – you are NOT eligible. While it sounds rather simple, being eligible is sometimes not clear.
At the most basic level, you may not meet the eligibility. Let’s look at the example of an export grant. The federal government’s CanExport ($100,000) grant eligibility looks like this:
Be careful. What you don’t see here is who they exclude: agriculture companies. Unless you are used to reading grant program guides, it could be easy to miss. Further down in the CanExport grant guide, you will find this clause:
Also be careful if agriculture is only a small part of your business. If the grant agency thinks your business is agriculture, then for the purposes of this grant, you do not qualify.
Ideally you will follow-up with a question like, “is there a program for agriculture export businesses?” The person will most likely direct you (as they do on the website) to the Agri-Marketing Program ($50,000).
The reverse on eligibility can also be true: you may be eligible when you think you are not. Some grants have “two streams.” An example of this type is the AgriInnovation Program. This program is divided into the following 2 streams:
- Industry-led Research and Development Stream that supports projects that result in an innovative practice, process or product.
- Enabling Commercialization and Adoption Stream that supports projects that prepare for the commercialization of an innovative technology, process or product through commercial demonstration, commercialization or adoption.
You may be eligible for the Industry-led grant if your organization is a not-for-profit or for-profit organization. On the other hand the Enabling Stream “must be a for-profit legal entity.”
The bottom line is that you should always talk to a grant agency before you start to write your grant.
2. ARE FUNDS STILL AVAILABLE THIS YEAR?
The government fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31. If in January you decide that “this year” you are going to apply for a grant, you should be careful. Other businesses could have been applying for that grant for nine months. What should you do? Two options.
First, believe it or not, some grant agencies are actually looking for businesses to apply. When grant deadlines are approaching, you will sometimes see grant advertisements asking business to apply.
Second, if you hear the grant funding has been used up, you should still call. If a government grant program has been popular, a Minister would love to stand up and say, “do to the popularity of this program, we are increasing funding for this year.” If you are really grant savvy, you will have built a relationship with the grant agency staff and would have seen this coming. For that reason your grant would have been completed in advance and the first application in line.
Finally, you may be wiser to write your grant and submit it for the 1st of April batch of money. But you need to talk to the grant agency if this move is wise or not. You need to understand how the agency intakes and processes grant applications.
3. ARE YOU STILL ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS?
Most grant websites have sections with deadline dates. In many cases, the deadlines are “ongoing” or “continuous intake.” This should immediately make you think of point 2 above, but it’s slightly different.
Sometimes websites are not updated. While they say they are accepting applications, the update for the website may be delayed. Although it may not happen often, it may happen after you spend a lot of time and energy preparing a grant application.
Finally, you just do not know if they are still accepting applications. Grants are continually opening and changing. You want to know for sure that by the time you submit your grant, they are still accepting applications.
4. WHAT IS THE DEADLINE?
In contrast to point three above, you will find some sites that do not have a deadline. Don’t be discouraged if you just missed a deadline. You can apply for another grant first and apply for this one shortly after.
Some grants have three deadlines a year. In this case you want to call and ask them which deadline is the most likely for success and funding.
5. HOW COMPETITIVE IS THE PROGRAM?
Grants are a bit of a mystery. Determining how many businesses are applying to a certain grant is difficult, as is the ratio of declines verses wins. The best you can do is ask.
You want to figure out how competitive the program is in this year. Some agencies are really clear that they want people to call them and determine the right fit. One of my favourite grant agencies for this type of transparency is Tecterra. For as long as I can remember, they strongly encourage you to call and get fitted to the appropriate program.
Other grant agencies just have too many applications and not enough staff resources. My understanding is the CanExport team is quite small but has a huge number of applications to process.
The goal is to reduce the odds of losing, so when you call, really try to figure out if your application is a great fit in this specific grant competition.
6. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE?
When I worked in politics, reporters would always end their interviews with something like, “is there anything else you would like to add?” It was a great opportunity for a politician to reinforce his or her message or just recognize some constituents. When you ask this question to a grant staffer, it might be your best question. Bureaucrats are overwhelmingly helpful people and want you to succeed. Give them a chance to help you. You never know what they are going to say.